/** reg.easttimor: 2981.0 **/

** Topic: Bill to cut all US aid to Indon to go before Congress **
** Written 8:35 AM Sep 8, 1999 by Joyo@aol.com in cdp:reg.easttimor **
Subject: Bill to cut all US aid to Indon to go before Congress

Sydney Morning Herald Thursday, September 9, 1999

Bill to cut all US aid to go before Congress

By GAY ALCORN, Herald Correspondent in Washington

United States Congressional pressure is growing for the Clinton Administration to take stronger action on East Timor, with a Senate bill due to have been introduced last night that would direct the Government to cut all aid to Indonesia.

But the US is officially still waiting on the UN delegation to Jakarta to report back before committing to any role in a peace restoration force, and denies Australia is pressuring it to join an increasingly likely international presence.

Talks continued yesterday and a decision on what troops, if any, would be available has yet to be made.

Democrat Russ Feingold, a leading East Timor supporter, was drafting a bill that would mandate the suspension of US aid. If it became law, it would have devastating consequences for Indonesia's economy and effectively cut off its relations with the US.

But even East Timor's greatest sympathisers in the US are distancing themselves from supporting America committing combat troops in the province if Indonesia allows a UN mission to intervene.

Leading Democrat Senator Jack Reed, who travelled to East Timor last month as part of a Congressional delegation, told the Herald that if Indonesia co-operated "we would be prepared to support logistically and with specialised equipment the introduction of forces there".

Senator Reed said the United States would not be prepared to commit combat troops because of "ongoing commitments in Bosnia, in Kosovo, we still have significant forces in South Korea".

"I think proximity makes this an issue much more central to Australia than it does to the United States ... and in that sense there's a natural tendency that Australia will take a leading role on this, much more so than the United States."

Senator Reed said that if Indonesia refused to co-operate, there would be "difficulty in getting the legal mandate and public and political support to do something that would be opposed and perhaps violently opposed by the Government and the armed forces of Indonesia".

The Wall Street Journal reported yesterday that the US Government was "seriously considering" participating in an international force, and an announcement could come this week in the lead-up to the APEC summit in New Zealand.

The Joint Chiefs chairman, General Henry Shelton, was "vehemently opposing any US military role", partly because he believed the military was overstretched in other regions.

The newspaper also reported officials suggesting participation ranging from 1,500 marines, mainly logistical and communication specialists based in Japan to a "token" US participation.

But in Washington, State Department spokesman Mr James Rubin denied Australia was pushing for US groups to be involved in any peacekeeping operation, saying that if a force was necessary "we would obviously look at ways to be helpful".

The threat of economic reprisals also increased yesterday with the International Monetary Fund and the World Bank issuing unprecedented statements warning Indonesia that billions in rescue funds pledged after the 1997 economic crisis were at risk.

The IMF said its regular mission to Jakarta next week to review Indonesia's pledges was in doubt. And the World Bank reminded Indonesia of its July pledge to foreign donors that it would support the operations of the UN in East Timor.

A World bank official said the message was unmistakable to Indonesia that its lending program was now in question.

** End of text from cdp:reg.easttimor **